I’ve had a craving for bread lately. There is something so soothing about the process of kneading and rising, of the warm smell of yeast working with flour. I have yet to perfect baguettes and more complicated forms of bread, but focaccia I can do. This recipe has infinite variations, but I love the sweetness of the grapes with the scent of rosemary and the toasty walnuts. It would make a great accompaniment to a simple pasta, but A. and I had it for dinner the other night with a big salad and a plate of olive oil for dipping and called it a night. As a note: this bread requires a starter which needs to be made the day before you plan to serve it — it only takes a couple of minutes to throw together but does require some advance planning.
Harvest Focaccia (adapted, only slightly from Bon Appétit)
2 1/4 cups water, room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
4 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup seedless red grapes, rinsed, patted dry
1 tablespoon plus additional olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Coarsely cracked black pepper
Combine 3/4 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon yeast in medium bowl. Add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour and whisk until smooth. Cover and let stand at room temperature 3 hours. Refrigerate starter at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.
Combine starter, 1 1/2 cups water and 1 teaspoon yeast in large bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with dough hook, or in the bowl of a food processor with a dough blade. Beat 1 minute. Add salt and remaining 3 3/4 cups flour. Beat 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and dough hook. Continue to beat until very soft, slightly sticky dough forms, about 5 minutes longer. Let stand 5 minutes. Scrape dough into large oiled bowl; cover with plastic. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare topping:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine grapes, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon thyme in medium bowl; toss to coat. Turn mixture out onto small rimmed baking sheet. Roast until grapes begin to burst, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on sheet.
Sprinkle large baking sheet lightly with cornmeal. Turn dough out onto prepared sheet. Using floured fingertips, pull and spread dough to approximate 18×10-inch rectangle. Press dough all over with fingertips to dimple. Brush dough with additional oil. Sprinkle with grapes, then remaining 1 teaspoon thyme, walnuts, rosemary, and lemon peel. Sprinkle with raw sugar and lightly with coarsely cracked black pepper. Cover loosely with towel; let rise until light and puffy, about 45 minutes.